I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA IN VOA Special English. Today we tell about jazz singer and pianist
Horn was considered one of the great jazz singers of the nineteen fifties and
sixties. She was often compared to the
famous singers Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. She performed for more than fifty years.
Shirley Horn's voice was smooth and expressive, but
never hurried. She was one of the
slowest singers in jazz. When she sang a
song, she wanted the audience to feel it in the same way she did. She had a small voice. But her songs had a big effect.
Shirley Horn sings her popular song "You're My Thrill."
Horn was born in Washington, D.C. in nineteen thirty-four. She lived all her
life in and around Washington. Shirley
began taking piano lessons when she was four years old. Her mother recognized her skill and love for
Horn said most of the songs she performed were ones she grew up with. She said her family loved music and there was
always music by the greatest singers and bands playing in her home. Horn said she lived for music. She said it was like food and water to her.
Horn studied classical music as a teenager.
When she was seventeen, she had a chance to attend the famous Juilliard
School in New York City. But financial
difficulties prevented her from going.
Instead, she studied classical music at Howard University in
Horn had planned to have a career playing classical music on the piano. But she said all that changed after she began
going to jazz clubs in Washington. She
said she was influenced by some of the greatest jazz artists, such as Oscar
Peterson and Ahmad Jamal.
asked about her change from classical music to jazz, she would later say: "I loved Rachmaninoff, but then Oscar
Peterson became my Rachmaninoff. And
Ahmad Jamal became my Debussy."
did not plan to be a singer. She said it
happened by accident when she was seventeen and playing classical music on the
piano at a restaurant. A man offered to give her a huge toy teddy bear if she
would sing the song "Melancholy Baby."
Although she had never sung in public before, she agreed. She later
realized that she could make a living singing and playing jazz. Here she sings
the famous song by Cole Porter, "Love for Sale."
In nineteen fifty-four, Shirley Horn began to sing jazz
in clubs and started her own jazz group.
In nineteen sixty, she recorded her first album, called "Embers and
Ashes." The album did not get a lot of
attention. But the famous jazz musician,
Miles Davis, heard it. He liked it so
much that he invited Horn to play music with him in New York City. She sang as the opening act before his
performance at New York's Village Vanguard nightclub. Davis had refused to play unless the club
owner let Horn sing. Shirley Horn and
Miles Davis developed a close friendship over the years. Here
she sings and he plays the trumpet on the song "Don't Let the Sun Catch You
Shirley Horn's performance with Miles Davis in New York
led to a record deal with Mercury Records.
She was soon performing around the United States. She also recorded with Quincy Jones and other
top musicians. But Horn soon left
Mercury Records because of creative differences. She wanted to play the piano on all her
recordings, but the record company did not agree.
Horn stopped performing around the country in the nineteen sixties so she could
spend more time at home with her husband and daughter. She played at local nightclubs in the
Washington area during the nineteen sixties and seventies.
Horn rebuilt her career in the nineteen eighties. She began performing more widely at jazz
festivals and concerts around the world and received strong praise. In nineteen eighty- seven, she signed a
record deal with Verve Records and remained with the record company for the
rest of her career.
nineteen ninety, Horn reunited with her good friend and teacher, Miles Davis,
on the song, "You Won't Forget Me." She
went on to record several successful albums and performed around the world.
also worked on several soundtracks for movies.
Here are Shirley Horn and Miles Davis with "You Won't Forget Me."
Shirley Horn was nominated for several Grammy
Awards. In nineteen ninety-eight, she
won the award for the album, "I Remember Miles," in memory of Miles Davis, who
died in nineteen ninety-one. Horn
received many honors during her career.
But her last years were difficult.
She had a series of health problems, including treatment for breast
cancer. And in two thousand two, she had
her foot removed because of problems caused by diabetes.
Horn continued to sing for audiences, but she did so in a chair, with someone
else playing the piano. The loss of her
foot made it difficult for her to work the pedals that control the way the
piano sounds. However, during her last performances, she returned to playing
the piano with the help of a device that took the place of her foot. In June of two thousand five, Horn suffered a
stroke. She died four months later at
the age of seventy-one.
say Shirley Horn influenced many young jazz musicians of today, including Diana
Krall and Norah Jones. Critics say she
will be remembered as one of the best singers in a great period of American
jazz. In two thousand five, Verve Records released a collection of her work,
called "But Beautiful: The Best of
Shirley Horn." We leave you now with a
song from that album called "Here's to Life."
program was written and produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Faith Lapidus.
Steve Ember. Join us again next week for
People in America in VOA Special English.